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Recipes and Stories

16 March 2013: Scallops Diane

Scallops with Mushrooms and Scallions, or "Scallops Diane"

If you follow this essay series at all, you will have noticed that I rarely venture into the justly famous cookery of Creole and Cajun Louisiana. That’s mainly because, first of all, these cuisines are not directly a part of my own heritage, and secondly, they have more than enough champions on their own, both true Louisianans and posturing Creole/Cajun wannabes, to need any help from the likes of this old Cracker.

But few Americans are untouched by the exuberant cuisine of New Orleans, and its influence on the cooking of the larger South, both directly and obliquely, cannot be ignored. Which is probably why, when I spied some lovely little bay scallops in the market and remembered that there were already fresh brown mushrooms and slender little scallions at home, my imagination began to play with the penchant that Louisiana cooks have for pairing mushrooms with the shellfish that is so abundant in that corner of the world.

With the memory of such classics as Creole Shrimp Clemenceau and its Creole/Cajun kissing cousin, Shrimp Diane, on my mind, a quick inventory of my pantry stores soon evolved this quick, simple sauté. It’s a perfect example of how good regional cooking, when founded on sound principles, is never static, but continues to grow and change organically, without the contrived, forced nonsense that often passes for “creativity” in our day.

Scallops Diane

Like Shrimp Diane, this should be made in no more than two servings at once, but fortunately, there is something in its character that seems too intimate for sharing with more than one person.

Serves 2

½ pound dry-pack bay scallops
4-6 tablespoons best quality butter, cut into small pieces, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound small brown (cremini or “baby bella” mushrooms), wiped clean and thickly sliced
6 small, thin scallions or spring onions, thinly sliced, white and greens separated
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, lightly crushed, peeled, and minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Whole black pepper in a mill
½ cup dry white wine
1 lemon, halved
1/3 pound fresh egg pasta cut into tagliatelle or fettuccine, or linguine

1. Bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, drain the scallops in a wire mesh sieve and pat dry. Put them aside.

2. Warm 2 tablespoons of butter with the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. When it’s sizzling, add the mushrooms and sauté, tossing almost constantly, until they’re beginning to color on their edges, about 2-3 minutes. Add the white and pale, thick green parts of the scallions and toss until they are hot through and translucent, then add the garlic and thyme. Continue tossing until the garlic is fragrant but not colored. Add the scallops and toss until they begin to firm up and are no longer translucent.

3. Season generously with pepper and pour in the wine. Cook until the wine is evaporated and the juices are somewhat thickened, about 2 minutes longer. Squeeze in the juice of one half of the lemon and toss well. Taste and adjust the lemon juice.

4. Add a small handful of salt to the boiling water and stir in the pasta. Cook until it is al dente—about 2-4 minutes for fresh pasta, 6-12 minutes for dried pasta. When the pasta is almost done, gently reheat the sauce and turn off the heat. Add the thinly sliced onion greens and swirl in enough butter to give it the consistency of thick cream. When the pasta is ready, drain and immediately add it to the pan with the sauce. Toss well, taste and adjust the salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and toss again. Then serve it up with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or French chardonnay.

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